project_deptdaston_alder_marie_curie.jpg

This image of Marie Curie's bicycle (along with Marie, Pierre, and Pierre's bicycle) shows the four of them before they headed off for their honeymoon in 1895.

Project (2018-)

A History of Artificial Beings

This project will retell the global history of technology from ancient times to the present through our changing encounters with objects. It begins in early twenty-first-century Mesopotamia and ends with early twenty-first-century Genomics. The book's narrators are ten individual historical artifacts. The life stories they tell are true, and in that sense this is a work of non-fiction, based on intensive research I have conducted in archives, libraries, and museums. That said, these accounts are auto-biographies, and material objects like guns and bicycles are not usually thought capable of having subjective experiences, let alone writing about them. In that sense, this book can also be considered a work of historical fiction. Odd as this approach may seem, this kind of "it-narrative" was actually a popular genre in the Anglophone literature of the late eighteenth century, when readers avidly read accounts that purported to be by various objects—a hackney coach, a guinea coin, or an atom—that offered a serialized account of their adventures as they circulated through the new economy of the Consumer Revolution. We are now living through a technological revolution as disconcerting as the first, and the time has come for things to speak out again.